The Bryan Fuller series will be led by a woman, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter, with the role potentially also being diverse. The character, however, will not be a captain, with the showrunner noting that decision allows the series to explore stories from a different point of view. The top-ranking member of the fleet will instead be a lieutenant commander, Fuller revealed Wednesday at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour, adding, “but with caveats.”
“We’re going deep into something that was for me always very tantalizing, and [we’re telling] that story through a character who is on a journey that is going to teach her how to get along with others in the galaxy,” he told reporters. “For her to truly understand something that is alien, she has to first understand herself.”
Fuller also added that the series will feature roughly seven lead characters. “Star Trek started with a wonderful expression of diversity in its cast: a Russian, a black woman, an Asian, a Vulcan. … We’re continuing that tradition and our lead of the show is going to be subject of that same level of who is the best actor and what can we say about diversity in every role we’ll have on the show,” he said, noting there would be a few more aliens in its fleet than previous incarnations of the franchise. “We wanted to paint a picture of Star Fleet that’s indicative of encountering people who are much more different than we are.”
Fuller confirmed that his Star Trek also will feature a gay character after he received hate-mail during his time on Voyager following a rumor that speculated that one of the show’s characters could be out. He noted that fellow executive producer Alex Kurtzman was the first to pitch the idea, which was already something Fuller had planned on including in the 10-episode series.
While details about the cast are still yet to be determined, the news that it would be led by a woman comes as little surprise. Showrunner Fuller — who is openly gay — recently moderated a 50th anniversary Star Trek panel at San Diego Comic-Con where he used the platform to stress that the franchise could serve as an antidote to the current political upheaval.
“Think about what’s happening in America, and think about the promise of Star Trek, and what we can all do to get there,” he told the crowd before ending the panel by asking all the fans in attendance to take each other’s hands and “make a promise to leave this room with love, to leave this room with hope, to leave this room and take responsibility to craft a path to Gene Roddenberry’s vision.”
During his time in front of the press Wednesday, Fuller also stressed that the show has an “opportunity” to start telling stories about how “we come together as a planet and seek new aliens and new adventures.” He added: “That’s what we’re going to do on Star Trek: Discovery.”
As for what the new Star Trek series would focus on, Fuller said he wasn’t allowed to reveal too much. “There’s an event in Star Trek history and Star Fleet that had been talked about but never fully explored,” he said of the serialized story. “We’re set in the Prime universe, 10 years before Captain Kirk. We have the opportunity to bridge the gap between the Enterprise and the original series and really help us redefine the visual style of Star Trek.”
The CBS All Access show features the franchise’s Enterprise now known as the U.S.S. Discovery. The drama, set to bow in 2017, will introduce new characters seeking new worlds and new civilizations while exploring the dramatic contemporary themes that have been a signature of the franchise since its inception in 1966.
Sources tell THR the rest of the cast also will feature an openly gay actor as one of the male leads (which Fuller confirmed), a female admiral, a male Klingon captain, a male admiral, a male adviser and a British male doctor.
For CBS, the news comes as the network is facing criticism for a fall lineup that is heavy on white male stars including Kevin James, Michael Weatherly, Matt LeBlanc and Joel McHale, among others. Last pilot season, the network rebooted Nancy Drew with a diverse female lead in Sarah Shahi, but the pilot did not move forward.
For his part, CBS president Glenn Geller was put on the hot seat earlier Wednesday about the network’s lack of diversity. “We need to do better,” he said — seven times — during his time in front of critics.
Star Trek: Discovery arrives as the franchise’s latest big-screen take features a new spin on the original character of Sulu. Star John Cho’s Sulu is now openly gay, much to the chagrin of the character’s original star, the openly gay George Takei.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated throughout to reflect comments from Fuller.